Both UCSB and Westmont College improved their 2016 rankings over last year in the annual tally published by U.S. News & World Reports, and on Thursday, Fossil Free UC trumpeted the news that the University of California had dumped from its portfolio nearly $200 million in tar sand and coal companies.
The UC announcement comes on the heels of the State Legislature compelling CalPERS and CalSTRS – public pension funds for various categories of state employees – to divest from thermal coal stocks. The student and faculty group Fossil Free, along with schools across the country, had been advocating since last summer to divest. In response, the UC task force’s Framework for Sustainable Investing established criteria for the entire $100 billion portfolio. Selling the dirty fuel stocks was part of the annual management of risk, said Jagdeep Bachher, chief investment officer for UC Regents, saying they were no longer good investments, according to the New York Times. In an op-ed that appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, Baccher wrote that climate change is an active risk factor and that the UC will include carbon when they look at assets like electric utility stocks.
With a successful three-year effort to get resolutions supporting divestment from all the UC student governments, as well as support from some faculty and academic senates, Fossil Free UC doesn’t plan to pause in its efforts. The UC remains invested in oil and gas, and students will keep up the pressure. “This is a much needed first step,” said Jake Soiffer, an undergrad at UC Berkeley, “but oil and natural gas are the most powerful polluters in California, and we expect the UC to take robust action on the biggest climate villains in their backyard.”
In the Top 30 Public Universities category published by U.S. News, UCSB ranked number 8, its highest ever and two spots better than 2015. Among all UCs on the list, UCSB was only beat by UC Berkeley (1st) and UCLA (2nd), and trailed quickly by UC Irvine and San Diego (tied for 9th) and Davis (11th). Its College of Engineering placed number 18 among engineering schools offering doctorates, and the school hit number 6 overall for best education for the buck, a ranking based on educational quality and net cost. Touting its applicants’ high average GPA (4.19) and SATR scores (1,975 out of 2,400), UCSB’s press release also cited a 2015 survey by Shanghai Jiao Tong University that placed the school at number 38 among the top 500 universities on the globe.
Likewise, Westmont College proclaimed it had leaped three spots in U.S. News’ top 100 best liberal arts colleges, jumping to number 93 out of the 245 such colleges in the U.S. The top spots went to schools in New England — Williams and Amherst (1 and 2, respectively) — with Californian Pomona tying for fourth with Bowdoin, Middlebury, and Wellesley. Westmont stated its ranking improved along with its better assessment scores, 2014 graduation rate (78 percent), and class sizes.
Editor’s Note: The original version of this story placed Pennsylvania’s Swarthmore College, number 3 in the last set of rankings, in New England, and that error has been corrected.